Topic Advisory Panels (TAPs)
‘Four streams of consultation will be ongoing, covering each core topic area identified in this article and drawing on expert, business and community views in these areas of social, economic, governance, and environmental progress.’ – Future directions for measuring Australia’s progress (ABS 2010).
Four Topic Advisory Panels (TAPs) of experts were convened to guide the MAP consultation. A TAP was formed for each of the four MAP domains of society, economy, environment and governance, and members were selected for their standing and experience in these fields. They were also selected for their capacity to think across the four domains and to consider the bigger progress picture, as an integrated concern. Care was taken to ensure that members were drawn from a range of backgrounds to participate at this more in-depth level; for example members were drawn from the business, science, social science, media, education, social and economic commentary, think tank, and community sectors. An appropriate balance of gender, age and cultural background was also sought across the panels. The TAPs were chaired by the four Deputy Australian Statisticians, ensuring that senior ABS leadership gained a strong insight into the debate, discussion and decisions that took place around compiling the aspirations. TAP membership is listed in Appendix A.
While feedback from the consultation in the eight state capitals provided a starting point for the TAP work, the TAPs played a crucial role in arriving at the final consultation results (presented in Section 2).The TAPs met three times over the course of 12 months. At each meeting they further developed and refined the set of aspirations for national progress that were emerging from other streams of the consultation. They also defined and clarified important sub-areas, or elements, associated with each of the aspirations. The results of their deliberations, refined through interaction with the ERG and ABS expert areas, have been instrumental in producing the consultation results.
The process of developing aspirations and their sub-components via the TAPs was iterative. That is, the results of previous consultation feedback were summarised and brought forward to each new meeting. For example, the first TAP meetings were provided with feedback from consultation workshops held in the Australian capital cities. TAP members were able to use these results as a starting point for discussion and the compilation of aspirations. Feedback from the first TAP meetings was then compiled and presented as a starting point for discussion at the MAP forum, and so on.
While the ABS encouraged creative thinking, and was seeking broad aspirations for national progress (rather than precise targets), nonetheless a degree of discipline was applied to the process. The TAPs were asked to increasingly focus on conciseness, conceptual precision and clarity to ensure the results could be readily translated into a statistical framework to provide a clear pathway to designing relevant measures. This aim was balanced against the need to describe the areas of importance in such a way as to ensure it would resonate with a wide range of Australians.
The first set of TAP meetings were full day meetings held at various times during May and June 2011. The MAP forum (November 2011) stood in place of a second set of TAP meetings (see below). The third and final TAP meetings were half-day sessions that focused on consolidation. At these final meetings the material was honed with a view to developing elements that described the key areas implied by each aspiration, some of which may provide conceptual anchors for progress measures. They reviewed and confirmed whether the most important elements had been identified, whether there were any conceptual gaps, and refined and endorsed the aspirations and theme headings.